Leila Monroe, Staff Attorney, Oceans Program, San Francisco
A new report released recently identifies the best solutions to tackle the urgent problem of an estimated 20 million tons of plastic litter entering the ocean each year. Plastic pollution is a daunting crisis for the marine environment, one that demands action.
With input from NRDC and other top ocean and waste experts, authors from UCLA School of Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment and UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability have jointly released a comprehensive Pritzker Environmental Law and Policy Brief: “Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter: A Global Action Agenda”.
This report documents the devastating effects of plastic marine litter, detailing how plastic forms a large portion of our waste stream and typically does not biodegrade in the marine environment. Plastic marine litter has a wide range of adverse environmental and economic impacts, from wildlife deaths and degraded coral reefs to billions of dollars in cleanup costs (see NRDC’s report on the cost to California communities HERE), damage to vessels, and lost tourism and fisheries revenues. The brief calls on the global community to develop a new international treaty while also urging immediate action to implement regional and local solutions.
Report co-author Cara Horowitz, Executive Director of the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, expressed in the report’s release:
“Because global mismanagement of plastic is fueling the growing marine litter problem, policy responses are needed at all levels, from the international community of nations down to national and local communities. We can act now to rapidly scale up effective policies and programs to address plastic marine litter. And hopefully, international collaboration to reduce plastic litter will lay a foundation for broader cooperation on other significant issues affecting the health of our oceans.”
Among the Top-10 list of recommended solutions are priority actions that are already the focus for NRDC’s work to combat marine plastic pollution:
- Extended producer-responsibility programs for plastic packaging;
- Advancing domestic and local regulatory actions, such as bans of the most common and damaging types of plastic litter; and
- Expanding the use of “zero-trash” Total Maximum Daily Loads or similar requirements in urban coastal watersheds.
Other creative solutions in line with NRDC’s work are the creation of an “ocean friendly” certification program for plastic products and the introduction of a new international treaty with strong monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
For more information on NRDC’s work to stop plastic pollution, follow us on Twitter @EndPlasticTrash and like us on facebook.com/StopPlasticPollution. And you can also get involved in our efforts to promoting solutions to keep our waterways, beaches and oceans plastic free by joining at StopPlasticTrash.org.
Trash in Ballona Creek, California, by Stiv Wilson, 5 Gyres Institute.